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Burger-meister Ford wins debate to bring a Hero to City Hall

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford tosses chocolate eggs to the crowd as he walks in the Beaches Easter Parade in Toronto.

Chris Young/The Globe and Mail

A new hero is coming to Toronto City Hall in the form of a burger joint in Nathan Phillips Square.

The decision to let Hero Certified Burgers move into the newly constructed food outlet in the square came after three hours of debate that included councillors haggling over menus and food diversity, all while Mayor Rob Ford circulated on the council floor in a rare effort to swing votes personally.

"It was great. It was a good victory," Mr. Ford told reporters after securing a 22-16 vote from council. The mayor flagged the concession contract as one of two key items in this month's council meeting. "I want to thank the councillors for supporting it, and now we can get revenue and sell some burgers. It's going to be good," he explained.

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The lengthy debate, which happened to stretch over the supper hour, was about more than burgers. A staff report that recommended awarding the contract to Hero, the winner of a competitive bidding process, was overturned last month by a committee. Staff were told to "identify strategic partners" such as culinary teaching institutions that might operate the concession and help spur economic growth and job creation.

Mr. Ford said it was important to award the five-year contract to the company that won it "fair and square." His opponents said the city should have something more than a place to buy a burger in its hallmark public square.

The mayor's push on the burger file also put him up against the committee's chair, Paul Ainslie, a member of his own executive. Just last week, Mr. Ainslie made headlines by confirming he asked the mayor's staff to escort Mr. Ford from a military fundraising gala because of his behaviour – a claim the mayor and his staff flatly denied.

Mr. Ford shrugged off suggestions that his efforts to sway councillors was a reflection of his personal battle with Mr. Ainslie. "I talked to a few councillors. It was important," he said. "I just wanted to make sure I won the vote."

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